Scott-Williams reunion yielding big dividends

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2015, 7:58 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – So how did Adam Scott persuade Steve Williams to come out of retirement and caddie in these four summer events?

Flattery, of course.

“I don’t really want to have to say how great he is,” Scott said with a smile Friday, “but I did butter him up a little bit.”

Their success was undeniable: They teamed together for four years, for 12 top-15 finishes in 15 majors, for a memorable Masters victory, for three other PGA Tour wins, for the rise to world No. 1. But wanting different things at different points in their lives – Scott wanted a full-time looper; Williams, who turned 51 last winter, wanted to race cars and coach rugby – they split last September.

During the fall, Scott held tryouts for his next bagman, seeing what he liked, and what he did not, and who could provide the same spark as Williams. Eventually, last December, he hired veteran looper Mike Kerr, but they never really jelled. Not like he had with Williams.

This year, Scott played eight events and only once finished inside the top 20 – the kind of slump he never had endured with Williams on the bag. As Scott wandered through a listless season, in the prime of his career at age 35, Williams was back in New Zealand, completely removed from the game. When asked how closely he tracked his former employer’s results over the past few months, Williams said, “I don’t follow golf. Don’t watch it. Couldn’t tell you one thing. I don’t watch golf. Never have, never will.”

Scott said that, like any old friends, he checked in every so often: “But it wasn’t like I was calling him every day.” Besides, Williams was adamant that nothing could bring him out of retirement.

Open Championship tracker: Day 2

Open Championship full-field scores

But one of the many things Williams taught Scott over the years was that, “if you don’t ask, you’ll never get.” And so finally, with his world ranking tumbling out of the top 10, and his putting statistics nearly last on Tour, Scott made the desperate phone call.

“I was begging and pleading for him to come out here,” he said. “Unfortunately I have to admit that.”

What helped persuade Williams to return was the fact that this year’s Open was being held at St. Andrews, where he guided Tiger Woods to decisive victories in 2000 and ’05. After a few long chats, Williams gave his old boss the OK.

“Then,” Scott said, “I had to go practice really hard so I was going to play as good as he’d expect.”

The move paid immediate dividends, as Scott closed with 64 at Chambers Bay to backdoor a top-5 finish at the U.S. Open. And now here at the Open, Scott is in line for yet another run at the claret jug, the one that got away in 2012, when he finished with four consecutive bogeys at Royal Lytham to hand the title to Ernie Els, the beginning of three consecutive top-5s at the year’s third major.

“I’m very motivated,” he said. “I definitely let that one slip, and I would love to be sitting here having won the Open … I think I’m playing with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder."

Williams appears motivated, too. At 5:30 a.m. Friday, and with only one other caddie in sight, he trudged out on the Old Course to chart the day’s pins. The process takes about an hour, and while on his way back toward the range, he got caught in the biblical storm that dropped several inches of rain and forced a three-hour delay.

“I was thinking there’s just no way we can be playing golf today,” he said. “I stood on No. 2 fairway and watched it flood in seven minutes. You couldn’t walk into the wind.”

Fortunately for Scott, the conditions weren’t quite as severe by the time he stepped to the first tee. Fighting a steady 20-mph breeze all day, he missed only one green en route to a bogey-free 67 that moved him only two strokes off the clubhouse lead.

His best two shots of the day came on the Road Hole, which finally yielded a few birdies Friday after the opening-round oh-fer. Scott’s drive that sailed over the last ‘L’ on the Old Course Hotel sign elicited a few gasps from the gallery, but he knew the strike and the line – the farthest right he could comfortably go – were perfect. With 196 yards to the flag, and just 176 to the front edge, it’s normally a stock 6-iron shot. But with a strong right-to-left wind, Scott “chipped” a 4-iron that trundled onto the green and settled about 20 feet from the flag.

“That was a very pleasing shot,” he said.

Scott nearly drove 18, and after two swats with that familiar broomstick putter, he was in the house with a flawless round, his name once again near the top of the big yellow leaderboard.

Yep, it’s just like old times, and Scott marveled at how “it feels like we’ve really hit our stride quickly.”

Good thing, because the stakes couldn’t be any higher during this three-major sprint, and their time together is running out, and both men are keenly aware of the history here, of the list of Open winners on the most revered links in the world. From Snead to Nicklaus to Ballesteros to Faldo to Woods, no course in the world has crowned elite winners quite like the Old Course.

“It’s just a golf course that requires complete control of your game,” Williams said, “and the best players in the world are the guys that have all the shots and have the complete control of their game. This course has never produced any unusual winners. St. Andrews is a great course, it’s had great champions, and this year will be nodifferent.”

The only question now is whether the Aussie can join them.

Toward the end of a Stevie-centric news conference, Scott was asked what could have been an uncomfortable question:

If Williams is not on your bag this week, are you sitting here right now?

“I’d like to think so for my own sake,” he replied, “but it was the right call for me to make at this point in the year, to get him back out and instill a bit of confidence in my game and get back in that flow.”

And now, with the team back together, everything feels possible again.  

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”